Beyond Charlottesville: Addressing Underlying Causes of Racism and Violence

PovertyMap

Racism and violence, of the kind we saw in Charlottesville, Va, this past week always merit our outage and condemnation.  But we have to be careful. Such attitudes pose a subtle danger: they can be overly simplistic and serve to obscure underlying issues that contribute to the unrest.

History has taught us that racism and violence are often symptoms of a deeper malaise rooted in economic hardship.  That was one of the lessons learned from the Nazis in W.W.II. They were able to exploit people’s economic anxiety and fear to create a police state that persecuted and killed Jews and other minorities.

America today is not Nazi Germany.  But there are parallels, not the least of which is an elected leader wiling to stoke fear and division for political gain rather than encouraging people to come together to pursue a greater, public good.

Meanwhile, economic opportunity and upward mobility have all but vanished for many Americans, rural and urban, white and black.  People feel trapped; there’s no place to go; the future looks bleak, and they lash out at everyone and everything that is different from them.

In a democratic society, we have a responsibility not only to condemn the racism and violence, but also to try to understand and address underlying issues – including pervasive poverty and a broken economy that leaves people feeling frustrated and trapped with few options for improving their lives.

Of course Trump has said many times that fixing the economy so it works for everyone is a central goal of his administration.  But his is purposefully misleading rhetoric designed to inflame passions rather than heal wounds.  The problem is all those immigrants and foreigners taking our jobs!  Trump and others like him are the problem, not the solution.  Scratch the surface of his policy proposals and its tax cuts for the rich that is at the core of Trump’s agenda (and that of his Republican allies in Congress).

The reality is that fixing the economy requires just the opposite: raising taxes on the wealthy, whose incomes have skyrocketed in recent decades while wages for working Americans have stagnated.   Taxes on high earners are at the lowest point in modern history.  The proceeds of the higher taxes should be invested in basic infrastructure, roads, bridges and transit systems – and in people, in health care, education and job training.  That would stimulate job creation and economic growth for all Americans.

Particular emphasis should be placed on investing in inner cities and rural areas where poverty and lack of opportunity are most pervasive.

Sounds like a heavy lift, and it is.  Politicians who propose higher taxes of any kind quickly become fodder for a flurry of attack ads.

Fortunately, there are some politicians willing to step-up:  Senator Bernie Sanders, the former Democratic presidential nominee, for one; more recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York  proposed a tax on those earning over $500,000 to pay for long overdue subway repairs that primarily benefit working class New Yorkers.

We should always condemn racism and violence in all its forms, but we should never stop searching for the underlying causes and work to address those issues.  A rigged economy, that favors the wealthy while leaving working and poor people behind, is a contributing factor to the kind racism and violence we’re seeing in Charlottesville (and around the word).

The very fabric of American democracy is fraying.  It is time to fix it, with real, concrete economic reforms that improve the lives of all Americans, black, brown and white.

An Appeal to God to Help End Racism in America

By Ian Wachstein

diversitytree_edited-1As America continues to struggle with our terrible problem of racist behaviors, I am inclined to write a letter to GOD asking for His or Her help. Frankly, while I am not an atheist, I am a doubter of the existence of GOD. But given that GOD might exist, I believe it would be worth the time and effort to ask for GOD’S help on this issue. To that end, this would be my letter to GOD.

Dear GOD,

Needless to say, I know you are aware of America’s history as it relates to racial bigotry. Throughout our American history that began in 1492, people of color have experienced a legally accepted racial bigotry which began in the 16th century. First came slavery that lasted for about three centuries. Next came segregation that continued for another century. Finally, in the 1960s, racism as a legally accepted practice, was ended, but racism, as a practical matter, continued to be practiced in many different areas in our country, and to this day, despite the progress America has made in dealing with racism, the fact remains that a significant number of Americans of Caucasian background still believe that people with dark skin are less qualified as humans than those of the Caucasian or white race, and these same people believe that America should still, as in the past, be controlled by the Caucasian or white race.

Now GOD, if you do exist, the belief held by those who believe in you is that you have created all of us humans. And given that science shows we humans are pretty much 99% the same in our physical being with skin color being literally the only difference, we need your help in bringing all of us humans around to accept this reality and to finally rid ourselves of this passion of racism that has done so much to tear our American nation apart.

So here is my suggestion. I call upon you to speak to all of your dedicated American religious leaders, your priests, your ministers and pastors, your rabbis, Muslim clerics, and other religious leaders of every persuasion to come together as a unified group to demand, while standing next to each other in a public setting, that each and every member of their individual religious groups cease their godless ways and begin immediately to work for a better America that accepts the equality of each and every human no matter their race, religion or ethnicity. I call upon you to lead your flocks on a path that will accept and recognize what our terrible racist history has done to our African American communities throughout our country; what we need to do to repair this fissure within our nation, and the real time that it will take before this problem is fully fixed.

I thank you GOD for taking the time to read my letter and I hope that you will, by your actions, give me a reason to finally accept your existence.

Donald Trump Should “Go Back” to Whatever Race-Baiting Planet He Came From

Telling the journalist Jorge Ramos at a press conference on Tuesday evening to “go back to Univision” was a thinly veiled racist comment, and not Trump’s first by any means.

Whether Democrat, Republican, Independent or Other, we should not condone or ignore racist comments.

Even, as Democrats, taking delight in the stupidity of such comments by the opposing party is questionable.

Trump is an embarrassment, not just to the Republican Party, but to all thinking Americans (which apparently does not include much of the mainstream media).

For his part, Trump should “Go Back” to whatever foreign planet he came from, the sooner the better.